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Fri.-Sun., Nov. 18-20, 2011
@ Camp McDowell,
105 Delong Rd, Nauvoo, AL
hosted by the
West Alabama Sierra Group

Senior Citizen's Paddle, Shoal Creek: Iron City to Goose Shoals

Friday, July 15. It was a wonderful paddle with lots of great people and a tremendous diversity of skills and personalities. Barbara Crow and her Huckleberry Hikers joined us, as did some Huntsville Canoe Club and Let's Paddle members. Snowy white egrets were abundant in addition to little green herons, great blue herons, and a tin-tailed duck (whistles instead of quacks). Garr were everywhere. Not to disappoint those of you who have paddled this stretch with me before, the riprap proved as vicious as ever. (North Alabama Sierra Club)

A Book of Interest

The People's Agents and the Battle to Protect the American Public:  Special Interests, Government, and Threats to Health, Safety, and the Environment
by Rena Steinzor and Sidney Shapiro
The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London
269 pages (2011)

Both authors are attorneys currently in academia.  Steinzor is with the University of Maryland School of Law where her teaching includes environmental law, legal issues in law and science, and the administrative system of government.  Shapiro, who has experience in the federal government, is at Wake Forest University School of Law and has expertise in regulatory policy and administrative procedure.

According to Steinzor and Shapiro, the multiple serious problems with which the U.S. government must cope have resulted in a degradation in protecting public health, safety, and the environment.  They focus on five agencies they feel are "responsible for protecting people and natural resources from anthropogenic threats:  the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)."  Their primary reason for concern is that "people should be able to enter the marketplace as consumers, workers, patients, and parents and use the environment's common resources (for example, ambient air, water, and public land), without fearing for their lives or suffering serious injury."

The authors assert these agencies have had some "remarkable success" over the last 30 years, but more recently they have been "actively backsliding" and have been hampered by "powerful external forces."  Of course, all of these agencies and their responsibilities are important, but in this piece only the EPA is briefly considered.

Begun in 1970 during the Nixon Administration, the EPA is an independent agency in that it is not administratively a part of a larger cabinet level department.  It is responsible for the administration of twelve laws, eight of which should be well known in the environmental community, e.g., laws dealing with air, water, pesticides, toxic substances, waste disposal.  The authors state several committees of the Congress have greatly increased the EPA's responsibilities, but the resources needed have not kept pace.

This book contains insights concerning the responsibilities and work (and associated politics) of these five agencies, and the federal government at large.  At the time of publication, the authors were guardedly optimistic about the future effectiveness of these five agencies, especially if reforms are adopted.  As an indication of this optimism, the authors offer reforms they consider important.

Submitted by David Newton

Learn about the many great Sierra Club outings here.

North Alabama Sierra Now on Facebook

The North Alabama Sierra Club now has a Facebook page. Among other things, this allows hike leaders to post last minute updates about hikes if the weather is questionable. It will also allow Sierra Club members to communicate more easily about outings and environmental issues in the area. Check us out!
- The North Alabama Sierra Club




Tell ADEM to Hold Walter Energy Accountable

Tuscaloosa's drinking water is threatened by a coal slurry spill into a tributary of Alabama's North River -- which flows into Lake Tuscaloosa.

The spill dumped an unknown quantity of coal slurry - a byproduct of burning coal that typically contains toxic heavy metals - from a mine owned by Florida-based Walter Energy on July 15th. TAKE ACTION NOW!

A Call to Action from a Long-time Sierra Club Activist

Brits are reported to answer the telephone with: "Are you there?" I wonder the same thing when I send email messages.

I don't often have responses to my messages; therefore, I don't know what actions, if any, you are taking. But I do know this: If we, and others who feel like us, don't take some really big steps to protect the environment, we will surely suffer the consequences.

I don't intend to be a pest, but I am an old guy with five grandchildren who is in a hurry. I would really appreciate your help. If we value a clean/livable environment, we just can't stand by and let others destroy 40 years of progress. And that is exactly what the opposition has in mind. (see articles below)

from David Newton

Climate Reality Project to Present 24 Hours of Reality on the Climate

What is 24 Hours of Reality?
24 Presenters. 24 Time Zones. 13 Languages. 1 Message. 24 Hours of Reality is a worldwide event to broadcast the reality of the climate crisis. It will consist of a new multimedia presentation created by Al Gore and delivered once per hour for 24 hours, in every time zone around the globe. Each hour people living with the reality of climate change will connect the dots between recent extreme weather events — including floods, droughts and storms — and the manmade pollution that is changing our climate. We will offer a round-the-clock, round-the-globe snapshot of the climate crisis in real time. The deniers may have millions of dollars to spend, but we have a powerful advantage. We have reality.

When is 24 Hours of Reality?
24 Hours of Reality will be broadcast live online from Sept. 14 to 15, over 24 hours, in 24 time zones and in 13 languages.

Where is 24 Hours of Reality?
From Tonga to Cape Verde, Mexico City to Alaska, Jakarta to London, people living with the impacts of climate change every day will tell their story. You can experience as much as you like without even leaving your home. Click here to find the location — or locations — where you would like to watch a presentation. from David Newton Sponsors Global Rally to Demand Climate Crisis Solutions


On September 24, Bill McKibben's organization,, will sponsor a  worldwide rally to demand that policy makers take action on climate change.

Why?  Three years ago, after leading climatologists observed rapid ice melt in the Arctic and other frightening signs of climate change, they issued a series of studies showing that the planet faced both human and natural disaster if atmospheric concentrations of CO2 remained above 350 parts per million.

Everyone from Al Gore to the U.N.’s top climate scientist has now embraced this goal as necessary for stabilizing the planet and preventing complete disaster. Now the trick is getting our leaders to pay attention and craft policies that will put the world on track to get to 350.

Moving Planet is a worldwide rally to demand solutions to the climate crisis—a single day to move away from fossil fuels.  For too long, our leaders have denied and delayed, compromised and caved.  That era must come to an end.

Come on bike, on skates, on a board, or just on foot.  Come with your neighbors and your friends, your family and your co-workers.  Come be part of something huge. It's time to get moving on the climate crisis.

Visit to locate or initiate a local event. from David Newton

Attacking Clean Water: Alabama's Congressional Delegation in Action

As you may know, all but one of Alabama Congressional Representatives (Terri Sewell, Dist. 7 was the exception) voted with the majority of the U.S. House of Representatives last week to severely reduce the effectiveness of the 40 year old Clean Water Act, by passing H.R. 2018, which would enable the 50 states to create and enforce their own rules concerning water quality. (read more)

Purple Loosestrife Control Project Underway

The Flint River Conservation Association has been working for several years to help control Purple Loosestrife in the Flint River watershed. Purple Loosestrife has invaded wetlands across most of the US and it quickly crowds out native species, adversely altering the environment for both native plants and animals. The FRCA has done so well in the past years controlling Purple Loosestrife, the government has awarded a grant for an additional two years to try to get it eradicated from the watershed completely.
This year, the FRCA will begin in late June spraying the few remnants of last year, plus any new seedlings. Alabama A&M University is involved again this year, and the spraying effort will run from June until late August. The eradication effort could use some new and younger blood, so if you know of any church group, high school group, or environmental organizations that might like to be involved, please contact ask if they would like to get involved. If you would like to volunteer contact Susan Weber at 256-509-1219.
- Susan Weber, North Alabama Sierra Club

Open Season on Endangered Species?

The U.S. Congress is considering more environmentally damaging legislation than at any time since -- well, since, there's been a U.S. Congress. One of the biggest targets has been the Endangered Species Act.

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune writes about why this is the worst possible time to turn our backs on species that need protection, whether they are gray wolves in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem or the whitebark pine of the Northern Rockies.

From the Insider, National Sierra Club

Climate Science Rapid Response Team

Reference my message of June 24 in which I provided a link to an article in Rolling Stone magazine by Al Gore.

I have also become aware of the Climate Science Rapid Response Team (CSRRT), a volunteer organization made up of climate scientists, who, I think, are mostly members of the American Geophysical Union.  In my case, they lived up to their name.  I received a response from two of them (one in New York and one in Minnesota) in a matter of hours.

The reason this group got started is to attempt to provide scientific facts associated with climate change.  I made a request in which I stressed information on economics, human health, and skepticism associated with climate change.  Below is what I received.

1) The Scientific Guide to Global Warming Skepticism (
2) NAS America's Choices document Limiting the Magnitude of Future Climate Change (
3) NAS America's Choices document Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change (
4) NAS America's Choices document Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change (
5) Harvard Medical School Center for health and Global Environment ( Along with a wealth of information they have fact sheets ( for many states.
6) Skeptical Science has a nice post with plenty of good links regarding economic analyses of action vs. inaction here:
7) Climate 2030 by Union of Concerned Scientists has a nice "economic blueprint" for 2030:
8) How to Avoid Dangerous Climate Change (
9) NAS Warming World: Impacts by Degree:
10) Tipping Points Report (Insurance Industry):

Although I believe their primary targets are policy makers and mass media, others can submit questions.  You can do this through their website at:

I would like to work with others in creating one or more brief documents we could use in Alabama to educate our members and others about climate change.   Interested?  Send me an email message. 

Thank you for your interest and support.

Best wishes.

David Newton, Chair
State Government/Legislative Committee
Alabama Chapter of the Sierra Club
129 Carter St.
Auburn, AL 36830-6320

Cahaba River Society Receives Grant

Cahaba River Society is thrilled to announce RBC Bank and the RBC Blue Water Project recently awarded CRS with a $35,000 grant.  Interfaith Environmental Initiative of Alabama will share the grant. Through collaboration with these partners, the goal of the project is for Low Impact Development (LID) and water efficiency to become standard practice in new development and redevelopment to conserve water resources.

The grant project “Water-Wise Growth for the Triple Bottom Line (Planet, People, Profits)” will use proven strategies in LID and drinking water efficiency to engage partners among development professionals, business leaders, faith communities, local public officials, educators, water and energy utilities and environmental groups.  The project collaborates with leaders who can influence sustainable growth by demonstrating water-wise development practices through targeted education and demonstration projects.

“CRS is honored that our collaborative, educational approach to conserving our river and drinking water has received support both from the RBC Blue Water Project, an international grant program, and from RBC Bank,” said Beth Stewart, Executive Director. RBC Bank is also a Corporate Sponsor of CRS’s CLEAN Program, which has brought 23,000 students into the Cahaba for environmental education.

“We are thrilled to know that RBC’s Blue Water grant will help with sustaining freshwater in our local communities, especially a river as significant as the Cahaba,” said Scott Stafford, RBC Bank Regional President – Retail.  “We believe that the preservation of the environment is fundamental to the sustainability of our communities, our clients and our company. The goal of the RBC Blue Water Project is to protect freshwater, and we believe the Cahaba River Society can engage business leaders and a wide range of stakeholders to achieve this in the central Alabama area.”

Sierra Club Outings

Summer is here!!! Go paddling with friends, take a great hike! Or just enjoy gathering with friends to discuss environmental issues! Come join us on the trail or just out for a stroll down the street! more>>>